Kindertransport - Oaklands Drama Group, Ruislip-Northwood Liberal Synagogue, February 25-28
Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, and following the 'Kristallnacht' atrocities against German Jews, the British government was persuaded to offer temporary sanctuary to 10,000 Jewish children.
The rescue mission, known as Kindertransport, saw thousands of unaccompanied children being placed in British homes, hostels and farms. Less than a year later many of found themselves interned as enemy aliens and hardly any saw their natural parents again, as most of them were victims of the Nazi regime.
Diane Samuels' play tells the story of Eva, the 10-year-old daughter of a German/Jewish family living in Hamburg, who experiences an onslaught of conflicting emotions as she grows up in northern England.
Her sadness at being torn from her close-knit family clashes with the betrayal she feels when her natural parents fail to make it to Britain to join her. Her anguish at being told that her parents died in a concentration camp is replaced by a cold bitterness when she is finally reunited with her mother, who actually survived.
Opting to stay with her adoptive mother, Eva renounces her Judaism, has herself baptised into the Church of England and changes her name to the more English-sounding Evelyn.
Seen first as a middle-aged mother, Evelyn, played by Marsha Myers, appears dismissive of her past but, as the veneer is gradually peeled away under the interrogation of her daughter Faith, all the conflicts and anguish rise to the surface.
Marsha Myers gave a fine performance as a woman tortured by the ghosts of her past, while Suzi Becker, as Faith, effectively portrayed the fury of a girl who discovers that her mother's version of her past has been a lie, but eventually comes to terms with reality and finds forgiveness and resolution.
Hannah Lester played Helga, Eva's natural mother, and Ingrid Squires played Lil, her adoptive mother in Britain. Both actresses gave excellent and moving performances.
As the teenage Eva, Alexandra Moran expressed cold brutality as she rejected the mother who had barely survived the Holocaust and then searched across Europe for her lost daughter.
A sinister non-speaking figure, always present on stage, was the Ratcatcher, played by Mark Davidson.
His exagerated expressions reminded me of a silent movie actor, whose function, I thought, was to amplify the emotions often being concealed by the main characters.
But the outstanding performance of this production came from 13-year-old Lily Unerman in her debut performance as Young Eva.
She was the lynchpin of the play, linking scenes set in pre-war Germany and wartime Britain, playing an innocent girl, wracked by emotion as she is uprooted from everything she ever knew.
Not only did Lily act superbly, but she also spoke excellent German, which she had to learn especially for this role.
This was a gripping and emotional production, expertly directed by Debbie Unerman and performed on an intriguing set, designed by John Baderman, which doubled as both Germany and England.
The Oaklands Drama Group is always keen to recruit new members. Contact email@example.com for more details.